The Not Writing of Writing

Standard

Focus-wise, this week has not been my week. My mind’s felt slow and clumsy, and I cannot seem to get my thoughts where they need to be. Some weeks are just like that. It’s not as though you don’t get anything done, you do. But is it everything you wanted to do?

Not even close.

I’ve been working on a manuscript, or, to be more accurate, very much not working on a manuscript. I am stuck, and not in the way that any of the wiggling tricks are going to unstick. No, this one I have to untangle, there’s no other way through it, and my brain just hasn’t found the loose thread.

But because I feel as though a portion of my brain has been left on its own, trying to work out the solution, it’s deserted me in other arenas. Doesn’t it know I need it?

Perhaps it doesn’t care. That’s probably the more accurate scenario.

Being in a static place while writing a novel is a very real aspect of writing. Some people claim there is no such thing as writer’s block, that it is an excuse, but the truth is that now and then, getting to the right place with your story takes time. It takes having the that thing spark you, so you say, “Oh, yes, now I see it.” It takes something you just don’t have at your disposal at the moment.

I will continue to let my brain chug away at the answer, and I know that I will get there in the end.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Learn to Write from Reality TV

Standard

Yes. I’m writing about reality TV. No, I’m not doing it ironically. I admit it, there is some “reality” television I honestly enjoy, and most of it involves “housewives” who are hurling things at one another, whether insults or beverages.

There is probably not one person left on the planet who thinks everything that happens on reality television is real. Well, maybe one, but Great Aunt Tillimeade is getting on in years and why deprive her of her one joy in life? (Disclaimer: Great Aunt Tillimeade, like many of the “storylines” on reality shows, is entirely fictional, poor dear). Like everything in media, reality television has its writers.

Real reality is boring. Imagine a reality show about my life. There would be endless footage of me staring at the cursor on the screen, giving up, turning on the television, and going back to the cursor. Riveting stuff.

That’s why those shows don’t do that. Instead they take what is most compelling, most interesting, most shocking, and put it together in a way that feels like a story. And it’s an excellent tip when you’re writing.

It’s easy when you are creating a world out of nothing to think that everything about that world and what happens in it is fascinating. Much in the way that the stars of reality TV feel that they are fascinating enough to justify their camera-toting escorts.

The reason the shows engage viewers is that they edit out the sameness of life, the day-to-day bits. Everything that isn’t relevant to tell the story.

See where I’m going with this?

When you write, no one wants to see the grocery shopping, unless the store is being robbed and your character is held hostage. If it’s really only to get the milk, and nothing relating to the larger story happens — even at a character level — aside from getting the milk, it won’t be all that interesting.

Show what you need to show to tell the story. That’s what keeps reality viewers coming back for more, and will always hook a reader.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 

The Dull Companionship of Boredom

Standard

I remember, as a child, long empty afternoons and the feeling of having nothing to do. That sense of boredom settling down around me. More often than not, it would be relieved by the frequent application of books.

Even as an adult, it returns, but it’s not brought on by having nothing to do. I think these days, it’s more about not feeling like doing what it is we have to do. There is so much routine to adulthood, so many “have-tos,” in the regular rhythm of life. The tasks themselves aren’t enough to engage attention, let alone hold it. We want to rush through to be done with it, but when we are, there is the monotony of another task.

It would be nice to always be present and engaged, but I know my brain, at least, doesn’t work that way. Nope. It always has ideas of greener pastures, just there, over the next item on the to-do list, when I’ll luxuriate in the time made by the doing.

And when I get there, what do I see? Hmm. More to-dos, hazy on the horizon, but there, nonetheless. Of course avoiding them leads to a boredom of its own, a procrastination-type of boredom that is garnished with a hint of panic when you realize what you haven’t yet done.

I’d like to say that the cure for boredom is doing, but it is possible for the boredom to ride shotgun as you take on the list, reminding you of the tedium as you wade straight through it. Like most things, though, it passes, and then you hardly can remember the feeling at all.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

There’s Nothing Quite Like Quiet

Standard

For months and months I’ve been bombarded with noise. There was construction outside; there’s someone in the building I am convinced has a stack of 2x4s and a hobby of pounding row of after row of pointless nails.

But not today.

Today it is quiet. There’s barely a hum of traffic, there haven’t been any sirens at all, and the sky is a a heavy gray blanket suggesting sleep more than anything else.

After getting used to a racket that would subside only long enough to remind me how annoying it was when it started again, the silence has a different feel, a whole new texture to it. It’s almost distracting itself, that emptiness of air.

I will try to take in that silence. To bask in it. To make use of it. Soon enough, it will be noisy again, noisy enough to crowd out thoughts, to crowd out focus.

But for now, this moment is quiet and still. And I’ll take it.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Weathering the Idea Monsoon

Standard

We’ve all been to the writing desert, haven’t we? That vast, empty place where there isn’t an idea for miles in any direction, where it feels as though inspiration will never come again. That place isn’t fun.

But what about when the idea monsoon season starts? It sounds like an embarrassment of riches, right? From nothing to a flood of ideas rushing through your head.

Except that can be tricky. I’ve written about how you can’t rely on inspiration as a writer, but it does strike, and when it does, you should grab your surfboard and ride the wave. Only sometimes, the wave breaks off into a hundred different directions.

Yes, I realize I’ve taken that metaphor as far it will take me. Much like the wave of inspiration.

Often when we feel that spark, it’s not just a single spark. Your brain is in creativity mode, and it is firing on all cylinders. The hard part is picking one thing on which to focus while there are shiny new twinklies all around you.

Write them down. The idea will wait for you if you put it down on paper or note it on your computer. Give yourself as much detail as you have, and make sure it’s there for you when you can move on to it.

If I gave in every time a new project beckoned, I’d never finish any. In fact, it’s almost as though it’s a defense mechanism, a distraction when I’m getting close to the end.

Once in a while, I let the siren song call me away, especially when it’s already feeling solid to me, whole. When it crosses the boundary of simple inspiration to something more concrete. But otherwise I try to put that energy into what needs finishing, and I save my flood waters for an utterly unrainy day.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 

The Nitty Gritty of Show Don’t Tell

Standard

It’s a phrase every writer has heard enough times to fill a telephone book. Remember telephone books? No? Well, they were big with a lot of words.

Show, don’t tell.

Great. But what does it mean, exactly? Because the reality is that you can’t show literally everything. If you did show absolutely everything, then we’re back to the telephone book again.

You need to decide what is essential to your story, and that is what you show. The maxim applies to character, to plot, to environment, to really every aspect of your work. For example, describing the contents of a room is telling; having a character fiddle with an important object is showing.

Word choice also comes into play. There are words in the English language that are very economical, and say exactly what they mean. That is good. But when it comes to something a character is doing, for example, that is not as good. It puts the reader on the tightly closed outside of the moment instead of on the inside. Saying “Jane fidgeted,” is fine. “Jane shifted in her seat, her fingertips drumming together,” paints a more detailed picture. “Jane twirled her hair around her finger,” paints a different one.

Show, don’t tell isn’t simply a convention. It’s not something designed to make the work of writing harder, though sometimes, if we’re all being honest, it does. In truth, it’s a deceptively simple road map for creating a world and people who will feel real to readers and draw them inside.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Don’t Ever Doubt the Power of Words

Standard

As writers, words are our tools, words are our materials, words are our product. Words can feel impermanent, nebulous. But don’t be fooled, not for a moment.

Words can change the world.

Words have changed the world. Words can be strung together in ways that ring throughout time, throughout history, until the words themselves become the history. Words can breathe life into a possible future far from the present in which they were spoken.

Words can tell us of a dream.

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose beautifully shaped words changed people’s idea of what was possible. Thanks to this man and his words, my life is  a wonderfully colorful place where I can connect with other people without a thought to skin color or religion or any of the other categories that are used to divide us.

Through a speech that lives on and on, he painted a picture of this future, which formed my current reality. Now is very different from then. That is what words can do.